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Monica Grafals, MD

Transplant Clinic Serves Hispanic Population of Colorado

Monica Grafals, MD, oversees the clinic that opened in 2018.

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Written by Khushnuma Damkevala on October 13, 2021

Research shows that Hispanic patients spend longer on the transplant waiting list than other ethnic groups. They also face higher mortality rates while waiting for a transplant. With a goal to change this disparity in transplantation, Elizabeth Pomfret, MD, PhD, chief of the Division of Transplant Surgery at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, created a clinic to better serve the Hispanic community in the Rocky Mountain region.

Pomfret recruited Monica Grafals, MD, associate professor in the Division of Renal Diseases and Hypertension, to establish the clinic, which is a culturally sensitive program serving the Spanish-speaking population.

Since 2018, the clinic has given many people a second chance at life with a transplant. The clinic’s entire staff is bilingual in Spanish and English and are trained to not only understand the medical needs of their patients, but also how cultural differences affect patient care

In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, we interviewed Grafals to learn more about the Hispanic Transplant Clinic and her heritage.

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What inspired you to start the Hispanic Transplant Clinic at CU?

I noticed that there were many Spanish-speaking patients who had difficulty accessing health care. They faced a huge language barrier and felt that health care professionals often misunderstood them and even undermined them. That’s why, with the support of Dr. Pomfret and the Division of Transplant Surgery, we decided to start the Hispanic Transplant Clinic. 

There is also a socio-economic factor to this as well that is documented from a public health perspective. Lack of education among underserved communities lead to a lower socioeconomic status, which in turn leads to lower access to health care. We wanted to change that and provide equal access to health care for everyone.

What sets the Hispanic Transplant Clinic apart from the other Hispanic transplant clinics across the country?

We are an all-female team of 12, and everyone on our team speaks fluent Spanish. We also understand that there are different types of Hispanics including Mexican, Caribbean, and Puerto Rican Hispanics. We understand their backgrounds and care for each unique population according to their individual needs. In our clinic, we mostly have Mexican Hispanics, since there is a large Mexican population in Colorado.

We have seen a 300% increase in Hispanic patients coming to our clinic since we started in October 2018. Initially we ran the clinic once every two weeks, but because of the increasing demand the clinic now runs twice every week.

On a more personal level, what does Hispanic heritage mean to you? Do you have any advice for aspiring Hispanic doctors?

Hispanic heritage means where we come from as Hispanics, how we embrace it as Hispanics, and how we care for each other as a Hispanic community. It is very rewarding to be able to take care of this community and give back to them.

Coming from my background I think sometimes you have to work harder to overcome certain barriers, but in the end, it is very rewarding to be able to take care of my community and other underserved populations.

For more information on the Hispanic Transplant Clinic, please call (720) 848-0005.